I woke up at 7:20am yesterday, took Cam to soccer camp, fished the Farmy for 90 minutes, picked him up, did some work, took Gordo to hockey camp, drove us home, made supper, hung out with the family…then got in the car at 10:40pm and drove to Rhode Island.
It poured on the way down, but SoCo was mostly just fog and dense clouds bracketing the universe’s attempt to shine through. Spot A was an estuary; there were bass and bait (silversides and peanuts), but the bass were 80 feet out, sporadically ambushing bait from below, unwilling to chase a fly, and I couldn’t present the way I wanted to. Spot B was the open beach. I didn’t like the easterly breeze, some of the surf was sketchy big, and I decided that absent ay signs of bait or bass, it was too much work. Spot C was some skinny water like the kind you can find around the edges of Narragansett Bay. Second cast, three fly team, on the dangle, BANG! A good fish, 10 pounds, on the peanut bunker bucktail top dropper. Hooked two more then called it a night — or is that a very long day, since I didn’t get into bed until after 3am.
That’s eight consecutive months of a striper on the fly from the shore. Last night’s winning entry was this small bucktail, 2″ long and so sparse you can read the newspaper through it. I love catching bigger bass on smaller flies.
A couple of hardy anglers had the temerity to fish the Hous Friday evening. 1,300cfs is certainly doable, if not challenging. We hit three spots and found fish in two of them. I had my first customer on that marabou crayfish prototype, and it was a solid smallie, just under a foot. I had the brilliant idea that I should try to catch a bass on the surface in that turbid flood, and by casting back to the bank…what do you know, a couple of customers. Both were too small to get their mouth around the hook, but I’d had my fun. Today the river is even higher and rising. Ugh, ugh, ugh.
This morning I had a 90 minute window, so I nymphed two spots on the lower Farmington. 550cfs, very cold for this time of year. First spot was a blank. Very surprised by that. I know I was getting deep enough because I lost my drop shot tag. Move around, find the fish, etc., so I changed locations and first cast, bang, a hefty rainbow that broke my leader at the top fly junction. After post-loss inspection, the leader above the break was frayed, so it was either compromised before hookup or Mr. Rainbow took me for a ride around a rock. Re-rigged, and landed one of the nicest brook trout I’ve ever taken on the Farmington. Both fish hit the top dropper in the rig, a size 16 Wingless March Brown.
Mr. Long Kype Jaw also has some shoulders and a complete set of dramatically contrasted fontenalis fins.
I don’t usually do this, but I’m going to share a concept/work-in-progress. What do we know? The Hous is high and it’s loaded with rusty crayfish which smallies eat. I’ve done precious little bottom bouncing with crayfish patterns, and I want to explore that. So: dumbbell eyes, inverted hook, lots of marabou = lots of motion, rusty/orange/red/brown/green colors, a little flash. We’ll see what the focus group thinks.
No name yet, not even the final materials and colors, but if I were a smallmouth, I’d chow down.
There’s an old zen saying I recently made up that goes like this: “The second white fly cannot come until the first.” Well, the first, second, third, and beyond are here. More on that in a minute.
I spent most of yesterday afternoon banging around the river shooting for my upcoming feature in Eastern Fly Fishing. Evening found me ensconced in a pool that proved to be a challenging wade at 600+ cfs. We had some difficulty, but despite a good-near-soaking stumble, we made it through.
So. At this height the bass were more spread out and definitely not as surface happy as they were last week. I did most of my business from 6:00pm-7:45pm on a TeQueely. The Gurgler was largely ignored. Saw my first white fly at 8:00pm, and although they weren’t thick the hatch built up some steam. As usual, the bass moved into the shallows and frog water as it got progressively darker. They were feeding on the surface (which was also littered with sulphur spinners) but they weren’t keyed solely on the insects. I know this because I did boffo box office with a Countermeasure from first cast to take out at 8:55pm.
Lost in all this white fly madness (sure, it’s fun!) is the black caddis. Size 16, and they were out in force. And I think the smallies like them as much as the white flies. Fish a Black Magic top dropper over an August White on point, and see which the bass prefer. Smallmouth always tell the truth.
That’ll put a good bend in the old five-weight.
And so we break the seal on summer smallies. The Hous was stained and rising (450cfs+) and warm, the air was thick and damp, and the smallies were on the hunt. I fished below the TMA — what a walk! — from 6pm to almost 9pm. Started out with a white cone head Woolly Bugger, and its production level was uninspiring. I wondered if they might like something a little darker in the stain, so I tied on a TeQueely. BANG! First cast. So I fished that for a while, cleaned up, then switched over to a Gurgler. Hysterical topwater action ensued. At 8pm I tied on a bug I’ve been prototyping and testing for three years now (I will release it very shortly, so stay tuned!) and the smallies attacked it with extreme prejudice, sometimes moments after it hit the water. No white flies yet, but I made my own hatch at dark with a White Wulff, landed one, and ended on a high note.
And I had the entire stretch of river all to myself.
Fun with Gurglers:
Hello, boys, I missed you! I got into dozens of fish. The pipsqueak factor was very low, with this bass being typical of the evening’s take.
Last night was textbook: increased activity once the sun went behind the mountains, a feeding spike from 7:30pm-8:30pm, then shutdown at dark. Smallies will move into shallows as dusk approaches, and that includes some of the bigger fish. This guy was patrolling in about a foot of frog water. He clobbered the bug as soon as it landed. I can always tell it’s a good fish when my forearm starts to burn mid fight. Lousy photo, but this slob measured in the low teens and was the best bass of the outing.
The results of a wee tying binge for myself and customers: summer nymphs and dries for ye olde Farmington River. All eagerly awaiting a hungry mouth(s).
Rainbow Warriors, Frenchie variants, soft-hackled PTs, wingless March Browns, Usuals, Catskill Light Cahills, Magic Flies. Be prepared to downsize your dries to 20s this time of year. (Although I had success last week casting big (8-12) stuff to smutting trout in frog water.)
Here’s a spiffy little video to get you all fired up about Matt’s new book Nexus. The big Atlantic refusing the dry multiple times — then taking it — is worth the price of admission alone.